PHOENIX — University of Arizona researchers say the current surge in the coronavirus outbreak will present the state with a hospital crisis that could become a disaster unless the state takes steps such as ordering a three-week stay-home shutdown and implementing a statewide mask mandate.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey puts his face mask on Nov. 18 after addressing the media on COVID-19 during a news conference in Phoenix. Michael Chow/The Arizona Republic via AP, file

Members of the university’s COVID Modeling Team said failing to take such steps would be like facing a major forest fire without evacuation orders. It also recommends providing economic aid to affected small businesses and families and preventing evictions and foreclosures.

The team has tracked the outbreak since last spring and made its recommendations in a letter Friday to the state Department of Health Services.

Many local governments have imposed mask mandates since Gov. Doug Ducey last summer lifted a prohibition on such orders. The local mandates cover an estimated 90% of the state’s population but enforcement is lax or nonexistent in some places.

Arizona on Saturday reported 4,136 additional known COVID-19 cases and 36 more deaths.

U.S. recorded more than 200,000 new cases on Friday

NEW YORK — The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in the United States reached 205,557 on Friday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University – the first time its daily figure topped the 200,000 mark.

Its previous daily high was 196,000 on Nov. 20.

The total number of reported cases in the U.S., since the first one was registered in January, has topped 13 million.

Greece suffers new record of COVID-19 deaths

ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities announced a record 121 deaths from the coronavirus over the past 24 hours on Saturday.

The total number of deaths since the start of the pandemic is 2,223.

There were also 1,747 new confirmed infections, raising the total to 103,034.

The country is under lockdown until Dec. 7, but government officials have strongly hinted that restrictons could be extended.

In any case, the opening will be gradual, starting with schools and with restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs opening last.

Officials also said that the ban on travel inside the country will stay in effect during the holiday season. They added that vaccination against the virus, when it starts, will be free but not mandatory.

Italy’s new infections have leveled off after a month of new restrictions

ROME — Italy’s coronavirus infections have leveled off after nearly a month of new restrictions, with another 26,323 new positive cases and stabilizing numbers in hospital intensive care units.

But public health officials warned Saturday that the second wave of the outbreak is hardly under control, with 10 regions still declared high risk and the daily number of dead — 686 on Saturday — likely to be the last number to fall.

At a briefing, members of Italy’s government scientific advisory committee said it would be unthinkable to relax restrictions over Christmas or reopen shuttered ski slopes, saying the risk of contagion is particularly high when far-flung extended families get together.

As a result, Italians’ typical Christmas Eve dinner en famille “is something we have to give up this year,” said Dr. Franco Locatelli.

Italy, the springtime European epicenter of the pandemic, has seen a sharp resurgence in infections this fall that pushed its COVID-19 death toll to 54,363, the second highest in Europe after Britain. The government opted against second nationwide lockdown, instead imposing restrictions on a regional basis based on caseload and the ability of the health system to respond.

British police arrest dozens at anti-lockdown protest

LONDON — British police have arrested dozens of people at an anti-lockdown demonstration in London.

Anti-mask and anti-vaccine demonstrators, some with placards reading “stop controlling us” and “no more lockdowns,” marched along Oxford and Regent streets in the city’s central shopping district on Saturday.

Police officers led several people away in handcuffs after protesters ignored requests to disperse. Several bottles and smoke bombs were thrown as some demonstrators scuffled with police.

The Metropolitan Police force said more than 60 people were arrested and the number was expected to rise.

Mass gatherings are banned under England’s current lockdown measures.

Britain’s relatively small but vocal anti-lockdown movement includes anti-vaccine activists, conspiracy theorists and people who believe the restrictions infringe civil liberties.

Non-essential businesses close down in France

PARIS — Non-essential shops around France are opening their doors Saturday, as part of a staggered relaxing of lockdown restrictions. The plans that come after a drop in nationwide virus infection rates were laid out by President Emmanuel Macron earlier this week.

All businesses, as well as delivery services, are authorized to open until 9 p.m. if they respect the French government’s reinforced sanitary protocol, including mask-wearing and social distancing.

That includes bookstores, music shops, libraries and archives.

Merkel appeals to Germans to abide by new restrictions

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel is appealing anew to Germans to adhere to coronavirus restrictions as the Christmas period begins, telling her compatriots that “it will be worth it.”

Federal and state leaders this week decided to extend a partial shutdown that started Nov. 2 until at least Dec. 20 and tighten some restrictions. The measures so far have succeeded in halting a rise in new cases, but haven’t pushed them down significantly.

The national disease control center on Saturday reported 21,695 infections in the past 24 hours, compared with 22,964 a week earlier. There were another 379 deaths linked to COVID-19. Germany has reported just over 1 million cases and 15,965 deaths since the pandemic began.

Merkel said in her weekly video message that Germans can be proud of their discipline and thoughtfulness over the past 10 months and encouraged them to keep to the rules and reduce their contacts over the festive season.

She said: “Let us continue to show people what we’re made of by sticking to the rules that apply to all of us now, in winter, before Christmas, over the new year. Because we will see that it will be worth it.”

South Korea reports more than 500 new cases for 3rd straight day

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported more than 500 new coronavirus cases for the third straight day, the speed of viral spread unseen since the worst wave of the outbreak in spring.

The 504 cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday brought the national caseload to 33,375, including 522 deaths.

Around 330 of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, home to about half of the country’s 51 million population, where health workers are struggling to stem transmissions linked to hospitals, schools, saunas, gyms and army units.

Infections were also reported in other major cities including Daegu, which was the epicenter of the country’s previous major outbreak in late February and March.

The recent spike in infections came after the government eased social distancing restrictions to the lowest levels in October to support a weak economy, allowing high-risk venues like nightclubs and karaoke bars to reopen and spectators to return to sports.

Officials reimposed some of the restrictions this week and could be forced to clamp down on economic activities further if transmissions don’t slow.

Illinois tops 12,000 virus deaths

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois has risen above 12,000 deaths from COVID-19, while also surpassing the 700,000 mark for confirmed coronavirus infections.

The latest 1,000 deaths were recorded in just nine days — matching the state’s deadliest period previously in the pandemic in late April and early May, according to an Associated Press review of the data.

After a quiet summer, the virus aggressively returned in October. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases jumped from 500,000 to 700,000 over the past 17 days.

Mexico reports record daily increase in cases

MEXICO CITY — Mexico reported a record daily increase in the number of coronavirus cases Friday, with 12,081 more infections reported.

The Health Department said the situation constituted an “alert,” and said that nationwide, infections had risen by over 8% last week.

Most of the newly-reported infections occurred in previous weeks, but tests results were reported Friday. The rise was greatest in Mexico City, where detected infections rose by over 34% last week.

City authorities have increased testing in the capital, including the use of antigen tests, and said that the larger number of tests may account for the rise.

In most parts of Mexico, only people with serious symptoms are tested, leading to an undercount of infections.

CDC panel to meet to plan first wave of vaccinations

ATLANTA — A panel of U.S. advisers will meet Tuesday to vote on how scarce, initial supplies of a COVID-19 vaccine will be given out once one has been approved.

Experts have proposed giving the vaccine to health workers first. High priority also may be given to workers in essential industries, people with certain medical conditions and people age 65 and older.

Tuesday’s meeting is for the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The panel of experts recommends who to vaccinate and when — advice that the government almost always follows. The agenda for next week’s emergency meeting was posted Friday.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have asked the Food and Drug Administration to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Moderna Inc. is expected to also seek emergency use of its vaccine soon.

FDA’s scientific advisers are holding a public meeting Dec. 10 to review Pfizer’s request, and send a recommendation to the FDA.

Manufacturers already have begun stockpiling coronavirus vaccine doses in anticipation of eventual approval, but the first shots will be in short supply and rationed.

Los Angeles County enters new stay-home order

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County has announced a new stay-home order amid a surge in coronavirus cases in the nation’s most populous county.

The three-week order takes effect Monday. It was announced Friday as the county confirmed 24 new deaths from COVID-19 and 4,544 new virus infections. Nearly 2,000 people in the county are hospitalized.

The order advises people to stay home “as much as possible” and to wear face coverings when they go out. It bans people from gathering with others who aren’t in their households, publicly or privately. Church services and protests are exempted as “constitutionally protected rights.”

Businesses can remain open but with limited capacity. Beaches, trails, and parks also will remain open.

South Florida Congressman-elect tests positive

MIAMI — South Florida Congressman-elect Carlos Gimenez has tested positive for coronavirus.

His campaigned announced Friday that the former Miami-Dade County mayor and his wife, Lourdes, tested positive Thursday for COVID-19 after having mild symptoms.

They said they’re self-isolating at home, in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and advice from medical professionals.

“I will continue attending New Member Orientation virtually and preparing our office to serve the people of Florida’s 26th Congressional District from Westchester to Key West until I can resume my normal schedule,” Gimenez said in a statement. “I am extremely grateful for all of the incredible health care workers who are tirelessly dedicated to their patients.”

Gimenez served as Miami-Dade mayor from 2011 until this month. The Republican won his congressional race in the Nov. 3 general election and is set to assume office Jan. 3.

Belgium relaxes some restrictions but holds line on gatherings

BRUSSELS — Belgium has relaxed some rules imposed to contain the coronavirus resurgence but is remaining strict on family gatherings over Christmas.

Now that all the virus indicators are declining, the government said Friday that non-essential shops could open under restricted conditions next week. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said that beyond containing the virus, everyone had to make sure that loneliness did not strike.

“We must also be sure that during Christmas and New Year people are not alone, so that is why on the evening of December 24 or 25 isolated people, people living alone, will have the possibility to invite up to two people inside their home,” De Croo said.

One of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, Belgium has reported more than 16,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus.

Pandemic forces changes to holiday traditions in Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Holiday traditions have been upended across Kansas due to the coronavirus, forcing Santa to stay firmly on the ground in one city and transforming parades elsewhere.

In Lawrence, hundreds usually turn out on the Friday after Thanksgiving to watch firefighters use a ladder truck to rescue Santa from the top of Weaver’s Department Store.

But that’s not happening this year as the pandemic strains hospitals.

Instead, Santa will appear on the first three Saturdays of December atop a truck decked out in garlands, poinsettias and pine cones, the Lawrence Journal-World reports.

The city’s hospital, Lawrence Memorial, has been converting more rooms for COVID-19 patients and 26 coronavirus patients were being treated there on Friday.

South Dakota continues dismal November with 39 more deaths

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota on Friday reported 39 deaths from COVID-19, pushing the state to record more deaths in November than all other months of the pandemic combined.

The state’s tally of COVID-19 deaths stands at 888 after the Department of Health reported the death records from a two-day period stretching over the Thanksgiving holiday. The total number of deaths has more than doubled since November began, with 463 reported this month.

The state currently has a death rate of about 100.7 deaths per 100,000 people.

Minnesota reports 101 more deaths

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Department of Health has reported 101 more COVID-19 deaths, the first time the state has topped 100 single-day deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The state health department reported 5,704 new cases on Friday, putting the state at 3,476 deaths and 295,001 cases since March.

More than 1,800 patients are hospitalized, including more than 380 in intensive care, as dramatic case growth over the past month has led to increasing hospitalizations and deaths.

The figures reported on Friday reflect data acquired by the health department as of Wednesday.

Iowa records 37 more deaths

DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa has reported that 37 people died of the coronavirus in the past day.

The state Department of Public Health on Friday said the additional deaths bring the total to 2,349.

In the past 24 hours as of Friday morning, there were 1,266 new confirmed cases.

Iowa has long had some of the nation’s highest coronavirus infection rates, but in the past week its numbers have improved slightly.


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